Monday, 23 May 2011

My Love-Hate Relationship....

           For some reasons, lately, I love eating dessert which has apple in it. Apple pie is my favourite. And so far, the best apple pie I've ever had is from Mad Jack. Its Sweetie Pie is to die for. The tart and fragrant apple filling sits on a thick, flaky and buttery pasty. It's then covered by a layer of golden-baked streusel and served with sweet caramel sauce.

           It's hard to believe that I've never liked apple-based dessert until lately. Even when I was living in Maryland where apples are abundant, I don't remember eating or baking any apple dessert. During the apple season in autumn, my family would go to the apple orchard for apple picking only to eat them raw.

Apple picking in Maryland.
          I made a lot of apple desserts during the pastry-making course I attended at BITC. But believe it or not, I did not taste any of them at all. That's because I didn't like the pastry. You see, at BITC, pastry margarine is added with the butter when making any kind of pastry. Adding pastry margarine serves 2 purposes. It makes handling of the dough easier especially in a hot tropical climate like we have in Singapore. It is also cost effective as pastry margarine is cheaper than butter. The problem I had was the pastry margarine used there had very unpleasant smell. I don't remember how it smelt but I remember I hated it, so much so that I refused to eat the products.
          I've wanted to bake apple pie for some time but haven't got to do it until Sunday. I looked through my collection of books and decided to bake Apple Streusel Pie  from Alex Goh's Irresistible Pastry. I followed Alex's recipe for the sweet pastry and the topping. For the filling, I adapted the recipe used in Dailydelicious, one of my favourite food blogs.

          This apple pie is very delicious. My family loved it. The all-butter pastry (no pastry margarine please...) is rich, flaky and crusty at the edge. The filling is tart, fragrant and not too sweet. The  flaky and slightly crunchy topping seals it off. 
          Preparing this dessert took some time. That's because firstly, there are 3 parts to this pie: the shell, the filling and the topping. Secondly, making pastry involves a few rest periods. The rest periods are important as they allow the gluten in the dough to relax after each stage of handling. They will produce flaky pastry instead of a hard pastry. Finally, since the pastry uses butter and the weather here is very hot, handling the dough was quite challenging. But, it's all worth it! I'll make it again!

Sweet Pastry:
70g icing sugar
150g butter
1 egg (slightly beaten)
1/2 tsp vanilla paste (I added myself)
260g flour (combine with milk powder & sift)
1 tbsp milk powder
( I used about 3/4 of the pastry for my 8-inch pie pan)

            Combine icing sugar and butter and cream until smooth.  Add in half the egg and mix. Add in the rest of the egg and mix until well blended. Add in flour & milk powder and mix thoroughly but gently. Do not overmix or the dough will become tough. Wrap the dough with a plastic and keep it in the fridge for 30 minutes. This is an important step as it serves 2 purposes: it firms up the dough as it is quite soft and sticky, and it relaxes the gluten in the dough & prevents the pastry to turn hard.

3 apples (I used Granny Smith)
40g butter
40g sugar
1 tsp cinnamon powder
          Peel the apples & dice into small pieces. Set aside. Heat butter in a pan. When it's frothing, add sugar & continue heating until the sugar is slightly cameralised. Add the apple & cook until slightly tender. Remove from heat.  Add cinnamon powder and mix well. Transfer onto a plate & let it cool. (I also strained the cooked apple as it is too watery.)

40g butter
30g icing sugar
50g flour
20g ground almond
30g walnut (chopped)
     Combine all the ingredients except butter and mix well. Set aside. Cut the cold butter into small pieces & add to the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until the mixture turns to breadcrumb texture. Keep in the fridge.

To assemble:
1. Roll out the pastry  between 2 plastic wrap to 3-mm thickness. Then line a greased pie mould ( I used an     8-inch piece) with the  rolled pastry. Keep it in the fridge for about 20 mins to allow the dough to rest.
2. Remove the pastry from the fridge and spoon the filling into the pastry shell.
3. Sprinkle the topping onto the filling.
4. Bake at 180 deg C for about 30 mins.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

A Time to Celebrate........


           My son, Amir, recently completed reading the Quran. Alhamdullillah...(All praise is due to Allah.) And in conjunction with this occasion, I decided to prepare the traditional Yellow Glutinous Rice ( Pulut Kunyit or Pulut Kuning in Malay). The last time I made this was in November last year to celebrate my 20th wedding anniversary which also fell on Eid Al-Adha

             I made the small ones for his classmates and the bigger ones for family members. Usually, I cook chicken or meat curry dish to accompany the glutinous rice. But this time, I decided to cook Beef Rendang because the dish is dry, so it is easier to top it on the rice.

           Everyone in his class gets a set of Pulut Kunyit and Oreo Banana Muffin. Hope the kids like it!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Valrhona vs Valrhona

         I was ripped off! It's all because of Valrhona, a French brand, cocoa powder! 

          A few months ago, I went to  a baking supply shop on Seah Street to buy my favourite brand of cocoa powder. Unfortunately, it was out of stock. The shop owner said that it would not  arrive so soon. So she suggested that I go to ION. Since I couldn't wait and wanted that particulat brand, I headed to ION and bought the  cocoa powder. I was so happy! Not only did I get my cocoa powder,  I also got to satisfy my ego  as I bought something from a boutique chocolate shop in a high class shopping mall. Not bad, ha? 
Nice box...nice bag...not-so-nice price tag....

           Fast forward a few weeks, I went to  Seah Street again and saw the Valrhona cocoa powder. I was so shocked when I saw the price! A 250g pack only cost $8.50! Guess how much I folked out for that tai-tai experience!. $20!!!!!! So I paid 135% more for the same product!!! (At least I believe they are...) I was so shocked that I asked indiscreetly, "Auntie, how come your Varlhona cocoa powder is so cheap?" Told her about my boutique cocoa powder. She smiled and, like a teacher, explained to me about rental, packaging, etc, etc.... In essence, it's all about product differentiation, product packaging, marketing, blah...blah....blah...... (Now I get to apply my Management of Business knowledge......after almost 3 decades....haha!) As you can see on the left, the boutique cocoa comes in a very classy packaging and it's also packed in France. On the other hand, the cheaper version is packed in a transparent plastic by the shop, Sun Lik Trading. When you buy it, you'll get to carry it in a noisy, translucent plastic bag (You know what I'm referring to, right?). Furthermore, Sun Lik Trading is housed in a shophouse near Bras Basah Complex. And for those who don't know where ION is, it is along Orchard Road.

$8.50 vs $20.00 pack!

Just a simple packaging.......
            So where will I buy my Varlhona products from in future?  Sun Lik, of course! All I need is the cocoa powder or the chocolate! Not the box or the bag or the ambience of the shop or anything else that  make the product supposedly 'better'! How about you?  Please drop your comments....
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